Debating Room - McFun - For Sale - Search - What's New? - Mailing List
11/07/02 . By Matthai Chakko Kuruvila . Mercury News . California, USA
Fremont to put limits on drive-through eateries
Dramatically reversing course on the regulation of fast-food franchises, the Fremont City Council has decided to place restrictions in new drive-through restaurants, saying more controls are needed -- particularly in residential neighborhoods.
Deciding that the litter, late-night noise and design of drive-through restaurants pose a significant problem for residents, council members backtracked on a March decision. At that time, a council majority said those issues were not a problem.
While Mayor Gus Morrison and Councilwoman Judy Zlatnik called for a virtual ban on new drive-throughs, no specific guidelines were enacted Tuesday night.
Instead, city planners will develop guidelines on the proximity of drive-throughs to neighborhoods and redevelopment areas, their clustering along certain streets, architecture and litter problems.
Several council members made it clear this was no assault on fast food.
"I don't want to see a jihad against the fast-food industry -- because they have a right to exist too,'' Councilman Bob Wasserman said. "I don't believe guidelines should be used to discriminate.''
Wasserman, along with council members Bill Pease and Steve Cho, voted against a similar proposal from the planning commission in March. But Pease and Wasserman said this item -- which was prompted by a letter from Centerville resident Jay Waste -- was different.
"This is more directed toward the neighbors' concerns,'' Pease said.
Wasserman said Waste's concerns were with drive-through restaurants near residential neighborhoods.
"If the planning commission had said the same thing, I would have never taken the position I did,'' said Wasserman, who believes the commission was more concerned about the fat content in the food.
But Waste said the issue is not just about the neighbors, but also about a regulatory process that leaves everyone in the lurch because guidelines are unclear. Franchise owners don't know where they're allowed to go, and neighbors feel as if their quality of life is at stake.
Neighbors have furiously protested the last two fast-food franchises the city has considered -- a Del Taco on Thornton Avenue and a Jack in the Box on Stevenson Boulevard. The Del Taco was denied, while the Jack in the Box was approved and is set to open as Fremont's 41st fast-food restaurant.
Referring to the Del Taco project, Waste said, "that project was the best example of what not to do.''
Raj Yadav, who saw his Del Taco plan go down the drain, also wants the process to be clear.
"They had a valid concern,'' Yadav said of the neighbors. "But I had a solution for all the concerns they had. Sometimes, the neighbors win.''
Yadav, who spent $15,000 on his failed project, has seen his efforts wither across the East Bay. He paid $100,000 for the exclusive rights to build 10 Del Tacos from Milpitas to Oakland, but his projects have been stalled or rejected in Union City, Hayward, San Leandro and now Fremont. He's still looking for sites in Milpitas and Oakland.
"They're just getting tougher and tougher against drive-through
restaurants,'' said Yadav, who owns three Del Tacos and whose brother
owns seven Jack in the Box restaurants. "I don't know why they're against
it. People like the food. . . . I don't know if it's bad for the city or bad for the
neighbors, but certainly it's bad for me.''